1812, Part 20

On the evening of December 5, 1812, Napoleon held his last staff meeting at the little villa of Smorgon. He announced his intention to return to France to allay public opinion after the catastrophe of his invasion, to thwart any aggression from the Austrians or the Prussians, and to raise a fresh army to fight the Russians. The remnants of the Grand Army were recovering well in Vilnius, where the warehouses were full and there was enough warmth and clothing and safety to keep the shattered soldiers in some comfort. Not that the French were in any civilised mood to barter with the residents of Vilnius. The usual pillaging and raiding ensued, military discipline having stuttered once again.

Winter view of Vilnius in the early 19th century, by Franciszek Smuglewicz

Napoleon’s return. On the Oshmyansk route, 1812, by Viktor Mazurovsky.

Napoleon’s sled for his escape from Russia, by Jerzy Kossak.

Napoleon left Murat in command, and slipped away to Paris.

[Translated excerpts from КНИЖКА С КАРТИНКАМИ.]

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